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What is a menstrual cycle? (and 7 other things to know about your period while TTC)

The menstrual cycle is a two-part process. Here's everything you need to know.

What is a menstrual cycle? (and 7 other things to know about your period while TTC)

Okay, we know. You've already had “the talk." You get the gist of how this whole getting pregnant thing works. But if you're still a little unclear about your menstrual cycle, you're not alone. A lot of women have questions about their cycles! So before we start talking about making babies, let's look at the process that enables it to happen in the first place.

What is the menstrual cycle?

All month long, a lining of blood develops inside your uterus, so that if you become pregnant, the fertilized egg has a nice place to implant and start to grow. When you don't become pregnant, that lining sheds. And that is your period.

The first day of your period is day one of your cycle. Periods last about three to seven days. The cramping you may experience during your period is actually your uterus contracting to ease the blood out. It's the same type of contractions that happen when you give birth… but we'll talk about those contractions in a few months.

How long is the menstrual cycle?

The menstrual cycle usually lasts anywhere from 21 to 35 days, and it's normal for this number to vary from month to month.

The menstrual cycle is a two-part process

Your cycle is made up of two phases: The follicular phase (before you ovulate) and the luteal phase (after you ovulate).

What is the follicular phase?

The first phase of your menstrual cycle is named after the oh-so-important hormone follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). FSH is produced by the pituitary gland in your brain, and its job is to make the follicles in your ovaries grow.

While several follicles grow, one will eventually become the dominant follicle (you go, girl), and that becomes the egg that will be released during ovulation.

As these follicles grow, they produce and release estrogen, which helps make the uterine blood lining and causes some changes in your cervical mucus, which allows it to help the sperm reach their final destination.

What is the LH surge?

When your estrogen level reaches a certain tipping point, your luteinizing hormone (LH) will surge (this is appropriately known as your LH surge). This causes that dominant follicle, or egg, to be released. This is ovulation. You may actually be able to feel ovulation, but many women don't.

Psst: For signs of ovulation, check this article out.

Now you've probably heard that you ovulate on day 14 of your cycle. And you might! Sometimes. Confused? Mother nature is tricky like that.

The follicular phase (leading up to ovulation) varies in length for many women. So one month you may ovulate on day 13, then the next month on day 16—and this can be very normal. What does not usually change is the length of luteal phase, the phase after ovulation. This is why charting your cycles is so important.

What is the luteal phase?

After the egg is released (ovulation), it survives for 12 to 24 hours. If a sperm reaches the egg during that window, pregnancy is a distinct possibility (fingers crossed). Over the course of five to six days, the egg travels through your fallopian tube toward the uterus. The corpus luteum (the egg's former home) releases progesterone and estrogen as the egg travels (progesterone helps make the uterus an even nicer place for a fertilized egg to grow). If the egg is not fertilized it will start to shrink, which decreases the hormones it's putting out. This drop in hormones causes your period.

What is conception?

If the egg is fertilized by a sperm (woohoo, your baby is made!), at the moment of conception, DNA from the egg and the sperm begin to combine to make your baby.

Welcome home, baby

After a journey down into your uterus, the newly formed human will burrow itself into your uterine lining (this is called implantation). It will continue to produce progesterone and estrogen, as well as human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG)—this is the hormone that pregnancy tests detect.

And if this happens… well, if this happens, we have a lot more to talk about.

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Sunday Citizen

I live in the Northeast and when I woke up this morning, my house was freezing. It had been in the mid 40's overnight and we haven't turned the heat on yet. Suddenly, my normal duvet felt too thin. The socks on my bare feet too non-existent. Winter is coming, and I'd been drinking rosés still pretending it was summer.

I couldn't put it off any longer. It was time to do my annual tradition of winterizing my home—and I don't mean making sure my pipes and walls have enough insulation (though obviously that's important too). I mean the act of evaluating every room and wondering if it has enough hygge to it.

If you've never heard of hygge, it's a Danish word that means a quality of coziness or contentment. And what better time to make sure you have moments of hygge all throughout your house than right now? As far as I'm concerned it's the only way to get through these dark winter months (even more so during a pandemic.)

So I went room by room (yes, even my 4-year-old's room) and swapped in, layered or added in these 13 products to get us ready for winter:

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This post is brought to you by Staples. While this was a sponsored opportunity, all content and opinions expressed here are my own.

One of the biggest changes in my household once my daughter started homeschooling was that, suddenly, everything and everyone in our home had to start pulling double duty. While I was used to wearing a lot of hats (mom, wife and WFH employee, to name a few), suddenly our dining room was also pulling shifts as a classroom. My laptop was also a virtual teacher. Our living room hutch was also a school supply closet.

If I didn't want my home to be overrun with an abundance of clutter, I had to find products that could multitask. Here are 10 products that are saving this WFH + homeschooling mama right now.

Stylish storage cabinet

Whether I need a place to keep the printer or just want to keep crayons and colored pencils organized, this pretty cabinet provides a mixture of exposed and hidden storage without clashing with my living room decor.

White board calendar + bulletin board

With so much on our plates these days, I need a visual reminder of our daily schedule or I'll forget everything. This dry erase version makes it easy to keep track of Zoom meetings and virtual classes—and I also love using the corkboard to display my daughter's latest work from art class.

Natural Recycled 3-Ring Binder

From tracking our curriculum progress to organizing my family's paperwork, I can never have enough binders. Even better, this neutral version is pretty enough that I can display them on the bookshelf.

Bamboo storage drawers

The instant you start homeschooling, it can feel like you're suddenly drowning in papers, craft supplies and more. Fortunately, these simple bamboo drawers can be tucked into the cabinet or even displayed on top (seriously, they're that cute!) to keep what we need organized and close at hand.

Laminated world map

I love this dry-erase map for our geography lessons, but the real secret? It also makes a cute piece of wall decor for my work space.

Rolling 7-drawer cabinet

When you're doing it all from home, you sometimes have to roll with the punches—I strongly recommend getting an organizational system that rolls with you. On days when both my husband and I are working from home and I need to move my daughter's classes to another room, this 7-drawer cabinet makes it easy to bring the classroom with us.

Letterboard

From our first day of school photo to displaying favorite quotes to keep myself motivated, this 12"x18" letterboard is my favorite thing to display in our home.

Expandable tablet stand

Word to the wise: Get a pretty tablet stand you won't mind seeing out every day. (Because between virtual playdates, my daughter's screen time and my own personal use, this thing never gets put away.)

Neutral pocket chart

Between organizing my daughter's chore chart, displaying our weekly sight words and providing a fits-anywhere place to keep supplies on hand, this handy little pocket chart is a must-have for homeschooling families.

Totable fabric bins

My ultimate hack for getting my family to clean up after themselves? These fabric bins. I can use them to organize my desk, store my oldest's books and even keep a bin of toys on hand for the baby to play with while we do school. And when playtime is over, it's easy for everyone to simply put everything back in the bin and pop it in the cabinet.

Looking for study solutions for older children? Hop over to Grown & Flown for their top picks for Back to School.

Work + Money

100 unusual + surprising baby name ideas

From Adelia to Ziggy.

Our list of 100 baby names that should be on everyone's list this year includes more choices than in the past of names that are obscure and surprising. That's because there are so many more unusual baby names coming into widespread use and baby namers have become a lot more adventurous.

Expectant parents do not need to be told to move beyond Jennifer and Jason. Their thinking about names has evolved to the point that the most useful thing we can do is offer a large menu of intriguing choices.

Here are our picks for the 100 best surprising + unusual baby names now.


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